In the voice of the Native Hawaiians, one of the basic sovereign rights is to connect with and honor the ‘aina, the land.

They continue to raise awareness of this right as sovereign people of the land, the Kanaka Maole. Their compassion to live in connection with and honor the land is raising awareness of the culture and knowledge they have to create a sustainable future.

Ask yourself these questions, do you want clean air and water, land and marine life, nontoxic food to remain a part of the Hawaiian community? Listen to discussions of sovereign rights that the Native Hawaiians are having. It is not only to prevent their own culture from becoming extinct but to secure Hawaii nei from over-development and destruction of its natural resources.

“What happens to the land happens to the people”, is common knowledge in the Hawaiian culture. The Kanaka Maoli continue to respect this knowledge handed down to them by their ancestors.

Hawaiians have been a thriving sovereign community for centuries in connection with the land. They used the water systems of natural flow from north to south reaching structured fish ponds and the ocean. The land in the flow of the water, designated and patented to the Kanaka Maoli was cultivated by them to grow taro, sweet potato, and other nutritious foods, creating a balanced diet. Medicinal herbs grew and were used to prevent and cure illnesses. They did not fish out of season.

With a sense of community care for the ohana, (family, community), sustainability was a natural way of living in synchronicity and connection with the land.

After the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, the self-proclaimed government was based on power and monetary gain. Commercialized sugar cane and pineapple plantations changed the social, cultural, and economic sustainability for the Native Hawaiian community. The priority of economic gain for the system in power was structured such that the lifestyle of the Native Hawaiian People’s access, stewardship, and connection with the land became stifled.

Much of the land was claimed by the plantation owners, the water was diverted to their crops, royal patents were no longer considered legal by the new government, and the separation of the Hawaiians from the land continues to today. The basic need to reconnect to the land is one of the sovereign rights that the Native Hawaiians are discussing to reach a sustainable future for Hawaii.

Crown lands set aside for the Native Hawaiians have been considered “ceded lands” to the State of Hawaii. The connection to the land has also been disrupted by the dismantling of and development on sacred heiaus, and burial grounds. Typically, Hawaiians spend their time working as many as two-to-four jobs and still find themselves houseless, living on the beach or in a park. Inflation of the economy is caused in part by rich developments that increase the value of the land, and the importing of food and living supplies to the islands.

Becoming sustainable on the islands once again, since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, through the lifestyle of connecting with the land, is the message, the movement, that the Native Hawaiians are sharing. They are pursuing their rights in courts of law, City Council meetings, and with developers who claim the land and prevent access to ancient areas of spiritual connection, to the ocean, water, and land, in some cases that was patented to their ancestors. Legal consideration of their land patents, respect for their culture, and an awareness of social, economic, and environment sustainability is a part of what the Native Hawaiians believe are their sovereign rights.

Reverting back to a sustainable existence connected through the natural resources of Hawaii, caring for each other as a community, and stewarding the land may seem superficial, but with the issues the world faces of global warming, polluted water, decimation of the land, oceans, and marine life, and starvation throughout our planet, considering the ancient knowledge of the Native Hawaiians that was once a sustainable and sovereign people, is a voice of reason to consider in political, social, and economic arenas for the future change for Hawaii and the global community. This is a part of Hawaiian sovereignty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Bauknight is a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist whose work has been published in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek and other national publications. She directed and shot the documentary film “Hawaii A Voice For Sovereignty.”

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to